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This year, Pentecost is our 6th wedding anniversary - unfortunately the Cathedral didn't survive the ceremony :-)
Bellbirds call.

In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.   (Fr Jim Cotter http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/)

See here for a tribute to Fr Jim Cotter by the SCM.

The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r175.htm

s175g16   Sunday 8   22/5/2016

‘Can a blind person guide a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit?’  Luke 6:39

But wait, this should be a sermon for Trinity Sunday ..

I began this exercise of posting sermons on the internet in August 1996 (1) and after the best part of 20 years I am stopping.   I am getting towards retirement age at the end of this year and I really need to move away from finding life through writing, to finding life in secular activities.   In some senses I am taking my own words to heart :-)

In the end ~1069 sermons will be able to be linked from the lectionary index of archived sermons (2) and the scriptural index of archived sermons. (3)  I will maintain the domain name and hence these webpages, so that all may continue to access them.

I am grateful for readers, for your words of encouragement over the years and for my parishes and hospitals which have allowed me to continue this ministry.   I hope my words have provided fodder and stimulation for others.   I hope, if nothing else, that others have been encouraged and permitted to think!

A while back I was browsing my Lectionary Index of Sermons and Readings page, and I saw that the only Sunday where the lessons have not been used since I began twenty years ago, and hence no sermon, is Sunday 8 year C.   Again, this year we skip from Sunday 5 on the 7th of February to the 9th Sunday in Ordinary time on May 29th.   So in a spurt of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I will finish my internet ministry by completing the set.  I will make reference to the Holy Trinity and the creeds later in the sermon.

If we are blind to incarnation, blind to the inherent value of each and every person, we cannot lead anyone else to see the value in others.   If our religion is sanctified selfishness then it is inevitable that anyone we might convert to our faith will be similarly selfish.

For me, this informs Jesus’ words about blindness and sin in John 9: ‘‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’   Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’   Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin.   But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.’  (4)

Often one or other of older couples will accuse the other of selective hearing :-)   He or she will hear only what they want to hear.   So also it is clear that often people see only what they want to see, and see things that others do not.   Religious people often see miracles where others see normal occurrences.   Yet ordinary people (if such persons ever exist) can readily appreciate the contributions others make to society without reference to religion or faith.   The statement, the United States Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ - is explicitly non-sectarian and as such expresses a far more important spiritual truth than many a church doctrine. (5)   The  church doctrine that immediately springs to mind is the Athanasian Creed, the ‘Quicunque Vult', which begins: ‘Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly ..’  (6)   Well of course, these days no one really believes this sort of theology .. except (then) Dean Phillip Jensen who wrote in 2008: ‘We have always been Confessional Anglicans.   We are Anglicans because we profess the Anglican beliefs of the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles of Religion.   These include the great creeds of the ancient worldwide church (the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds).’   (7)    The last thing this orthodox dean would want is to lead people to a respect for anyone other than Sydney Anglicans.   Women who believe themselves called to something more than procreating ever more Sydney Anglicans and gay and lesbian persons who will never add new adherents to their cause are not respected; nor Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and the multitude of others, likewise.   The unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are denied these people.    And the ordinary man nor woman ‘in the street’ - struggling to make a living - their only respect comes from their participation in a church - a local congregation - steadfastly parroting Dean Jensen’s personal divisive interpretation of scripture!   It is this dean and this theology which is inspiring GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans seeking to take over the Anglican Communion.

In some ways once one sees value in all other people, all the words of Jesus fall into place.   I feel as if my work is done if I’ve helped others to see this essential message.   Paul found it pretty impossible to argue with the orthodox: ‘Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks .. (but) they opposed and reviled him’.  (8)

The trouble is, as Paul well knew, when one is brought up being taught that God hates people of other races and religions, our blindness to the sacred in others is ingrained, and it is not surprising that 'seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’  (9)  It takes an unmediated experience of the divine, for the mediated experience so often is inherently discriminatory.

In his ‘magnum opus’, his letter to the Romans, Paul comes to the conclusion, in questions continuing to apply to some parts of the church today: ‘Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another?   It is before their own lord that they stand or fall.   And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.’ (10)
And: ‘Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister?   Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?   For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God.’  (11)
And: ‘I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.’ (12)
And: ‘Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.’  (13)

It is precisely those who pass judgement on others, despise others, call others unclean, and don’t welcome others who are the subject of Paul’s denunciation: ‘For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions.   Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.   Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error’ - not those who choose to share intimacy with someone of the same gender.  (14)   This, as I have noted before, parallels the very first words of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah, when he says of Israel: ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom!   Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!   What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. (15)

Many, many people are not blind to the majesty of the divine.   They experience the luminous in creativity, empathy, in relationship, nature, music, in purpose - but they find the credal formulas unreal.   Creeds impose a mediated explanation which distracts others from what motivates them.   But this is to misuse the creeds for they in fact hide more than they reveal.   Anyone who can explain the divine is implicitly heretical.  

It was on Trinity Sunday 1973 that I attended a ‘vocations day’ at the then St Barnabas College, in Adelaide (16) which set in train my decision to not proceed with an electrical engineering career, but to test my vocation.   Here I am, 43 years later on, still learning, still discerning, but in a place where I can say with some assurance, that God loves loving people, whatever name they call the divine, in whatever manner they choose to worship, no matter what class, language, culture, gender or with whom they choose to share their intimate affections.   Perhaps I’m a slow learner, or perhaps it is this reality that has motivated me all along.

Farewell!  Shalom!  Namaste!

1.  http://frsparky.net/a/054e96.htm
2.  http://frsparky.net/LIn11.html
3.  http://frsparky.net/SIn11.html
4.  John 9:39-41
5.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life,_Liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_Happiness
6.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed
7.  http://phillipjensen.com/articles/why-anglican/
8.  Acts 18:4,6
9.  Matthew 13:13
10.  Romans 14:4
11.  Romans 14:10
12.  Romans 14:14
13.  Romans 15:7
14.  Romans 1:26-27
15.  Isaiah 1:10-11
16.  https://www.sbtc.org.au/about/history/

Your comments are welcome at:frsparky@xtra.co.nz

Christopher Heath
Christopher Heath
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This posting of sermons on the internet began on 25/8/96.